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A 3-Step Method To Work With Distractions During Meditation

Early one morning, I sat in meditation in my villa in Bali. The lotus pond in my yard mirrored the sky tinged with pink from the sunrise. Wisps of cloud crowned a distant volcano on the horizon. The palm trees and emerald grass of the rice fields surrounding me were still. I felt bliss and peace as I meditated; my mind empty, and my heart full.

Suddenly, loud hammering coming from nearby shattered the quiet.

From my meditative state, I observed a flare of anger rise in my chest, followed by a desire to have the noise stop. However, the banging continued, along with my irritation.

Because I was a practiced meditator, I had a foundation of skills to draw from in order to deal with this situation. As I sat with my eyes closed, I knew I had a choice: I could give my power away to the unpleasant noise and allow it to destroy my inner peace, or I could re-center myself through practicing the 3 R’s: recognize, relax, and release resistance.

The Three R’s

1: Recognize. Because I was meditating, it was easy to recognize what was happening as I had no distractions other than my thoughts. First was the noise, then there was the space for me to choose: will I react and give my power away or will I respond with awareness? Seems simple, but when I react instead of respond, it’s easy to lapse into unawareness and allow negative emotions to take over. It doesn’t have to be something as obvious as a hammer shattering silence; disturbances may be a wandering mind or a leg going numb during meditation.

2: Relax. Once I recognized that I had been knocked off balance, I could relax. This is  just a pause between the first and third steps, but a powerful one. Because I was able to acknowledge what was happening, I eased into the irritation through taking slow, conscious breaths. I observed how the surge of sensation felt in my heart, and I relaxed around it. I let go and surrendered to the present moment and into the sensations in my body.

3: Release Resistance. The last step then unfolded easily, and I let go of needing the moment to be anything other than what it was. I became completely in tune with my heart as I witnessed all the layers of my reality in that instant. From meditating in my villa, to the intrusion of noise and my reaction, and finally the realignment to my inner stillness, I was able to find the sweet spot of being able to be the observer and not let it rob me of peace.

Try this out the next time you meditate and see how it works for you. Once you’re able to use the 3 R’s while meditating, you can apply it in the real world. You’ll notice after a while of doing this practice that you have more space between triggers, allowing you to respond instead of react. Over time, that space will continue to expand, until you find you don’t react at all. And that is the goal, isn’t it? To be in the world, but not of the world. To be the captain of your ship, and not let it be capsized by any trigger, great or small. This is true freedom and what some might call enlightenment.

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